While Oakland Elementary School Principal David LaFrance reported bullying-related issues are “always a focus every year,” Bloomington’s District 87 is placing an expanded emphasis on the impact the Information Age – social media, cyberbullying, and the like – is having on students. the district also has hired a social media specialist to explore growing online concerns, he said.
“We have really looked at that avenue, and how we can support and be proactive and teach kids how to be appropriate with their use of the Internet and computers, because of the influence of social media and how it can influence bullying and truly hurt people,” LaFrance noted during Unit 5’s recent participation in the annual back-to-school West Side Block Party.
“Sometimes, kids make mistakes and make choices without realizing that the one thing you do, quickly, with the touch of a button, they can go out to everyone, and it’s forever.”
The addition of a technology specialist coincides with plans to roll out 1,300 new computers at Bloomington High School. The district is renowned for “one of the finest technology departments in the state,” with a BHS-based “iCloud” program that is helping shape school technologies across the state and, increasingly, the U.S.
Oakland Elementary School has implemented the SchoolReach CyberBully HotlineTM. The purpose of this program is to create an anonymous, two-way means for students, parents, guardians and others to report incidents of bullying, harassment, intimidation and information on potential harmful or violent acts by others. Oakland's CyberBully Hotline number is 309-232-8087.
LaFrance and others also continue to communicate the basics. Anti-bullying education begins with teaching students “how you should treat people in relationships,” addressing image issues that particularly affect older students, and “celebrating differences,” he said.
“Everybody has a story, and your story’s going to be different from mine, and that’s what makes us unique,” LaFrance stressed.